Can't Fall Asleep? Chill.
Sleep. For some, it's one of life's joys. For others, it's a source of frustration.
The bedroom's not dark enough. I need white-noise. My feet are cold. I have too much on my mind — Not getting enough quality sleep can have a negative impact on your mood and even your long-term health.
Countless studies have tried to determine the many factors that affect our sleep, including how much sleep a healthy adult needs and what affects quality sleep, with some research suggesting that better quality sleep is more important than amount of time spent sleeping. A recent study also suggests that temperature might have a bigger impact on sleep than light.
How temperature affects sleep
If you've ever kicked away your covers at night in a sweat, frustrated that you can't fall asleep, you know exactly how important it is to keep the right temperature for dozing off. Our core body temperature (Tcore) varies throughout the 24-hour day, decreasing during sleep and increasing during waking hours. In order for our bodies to initiate sleep, our core temperature needs to drop by about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit. When we lie down to sleep at night, our bodies increase the blood circulation on the surface of our skin, particularly near our hands and feet, which encourages heat loss to the environment. This loss of heat is part of our natural circadian rhythm and contributes to the rapid onset of sleep and is strongly related to the release of melatonin.
What temperature is best?
Research suggests that we sleep best when our bodies have achieved "thermoneutrality," a state in which our body's temperature is at an optimum with the environment which allows the least amount of oxygen to be consumed for metabolism. The ideal ambient temperature seems to be between 86–90 degrees Fahrenheit if you sleep without clothing, or 60–67 degrees Fahrenheit with pajamas and at least one sheet (though we think you might need a blanket!).
Through the night, our body loses heat naturally through our hands and feet. On a cold night, putting socks on your feet can help limit how much heat is loss. If you get too warm, try pulling your hands and feet out of the covers.
Showering Before Bed
Other than adjusting the thermostat, taking a bath or shower before bed is a good way to help fall asleep faster. A warm shower or bath helps increase your circulation, bringing more blood flow to the capillaries towards the surface of your skin. As a result, your body cools off quicker, helping you to fall asleep.
Tip: Be careful not to let your body get too cold or you may be susceptible to a cold. Always dry off properly and avoid sleeping with wet hair.
Waking Your Body Up
Your body's temperature follows a set pattern of ups and downs throughout the day, reaching your peak core temperature in the late afternoon, and your lowest body temperature just before you wake up. The cycles of your body temperature is related to your sleep cycle — if your bedroom is too hot or too cold, you may be more restless through your sleep and wake up feeling unrested.
Just as it may help to lower your thermostat at night before you go to sleep, setting the temperature higher and throwing on a jacket or sweater in the morning will also help your body wake up quicker. Sipping on hot tea, coffee or water in the morning will further help raise your core temperature and prepare you for the day.
Next time you find yourself having trouble falling asleep, feeling restless at night, and waking up unrested, pay attention to your thermostat at night — you might just need to cool off.
We can help. Find out how.
Works cited and additional resources:
- National Sleep Foundation
- NCBI: Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm
- NCBI: The relationship between insomnia and body temperatures
- NCBI: Prevention and treatment of sleep through regulation of sleeping habits
- Sleep Medicine Reviews: Thermoregulation as a sleep signalling system
- American Journal of Physiology, Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology: Functional link between distal vasodilation and sleep-onset latency?
- Oxford Academic: Sleep